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Mental Health in the Workplace

16 May 2019
Mental Health in the Workplace

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s shocking to see the number of people currently suffering from some sort of mental health issues, from employees to children.

I come across many organisations that are having to deal with employees suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia. Relationships that once were blossoming become sour and unpredictable because an employer may not know how to deal with an employee who has been diagnosed with a mental health issue.

Mental health impacts every individual and the way everything is done. It is the way people feel and think. As well as impacting individuals’ personal lives, wellbeing and morale, it also impacts the way they perform at work and can have costly consequences for employers.

Research shows that almost 3 in every 10 employees will have a mental health problem in any one year, and that people suffering from depression take an average of 30 days off for each sickness absence spell.

As an employer, what can you do?

Employers should actively support their employees’ mental health and should create a working environment which eradicates the stigma mental health can carry. The work environment should foster:

  • a culture of support and openness, with accessible policies in place to support employees
  • access to occupational health
  • education, so that employees can recognise and understand the signs and symptoms of mental health.

Employers should note that addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity.

It is important that the policies put in place are followed. Employers should work with their HR manager and management team to teach them how to handle matters sensitively. Approaching an employee about their mental health is very difficult and should always be done in private.

Ideally, an employer should know the individuals that work for them. They should be able to notice uncharacteristic behaviour, such as a loss of motivation, and monitor the change to establish whether it is a one-off could be an indicator that an employee may be suffering from mental health issues.

Many employees with mental health problems may meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, they may have protection against discrimination and harassment. They may also be entitled to reasonable adjustments to their work, so employers should remove any substantial disadvantage the employee suffers. This may include, for example, changing the individual’s work pattern. If an employee who is facing disciplinary procedures is absent from work due to sickness on the grounds of mental health issues, the employer should take legal advice before proceeding with the disciplinary action in order to avoid potential employment tribunal claims for discrimination.

Also, where possible, employers should ‘think outside the box’ to find a solution and support the employee, as there is often a workable solution.

If you would like advice on mental health in the workplace please get in touch today. You can message me directly here on LinkedIn, or contact us via email at contact@davenportsolicitors.com, or call us on 020 7903 6888.

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